Frequently Asked Questions

A female park ranger standing behind a desk at a visitor center points to a map for 2 visitors.
 

The Basics

Shenandoah National Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although the Park is always open, Skyline Drive may be closed at times due to inclement weather conditions. Call (540) 999-3500 (option 1, then option 1) to check the latest status.

Skyline Drive is in Shenandoah National Park. It's a paved road that runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is the only public road through the Park.

Shenandoah National Park is one of about 150 park service units that charge an entrance fee. Eighty percent of the fees collected at Shenandoah are returned to the park for specific projects. We strongly encourage you to purchase a digital entrance pass online before arriving at Shenandoah. You may also purchase an entrance pass at one of the entrance stations when you arrive at Shenandoah. If the entrance station is closed, you may pay on your way out.

The annual Shenandoah pass is good for unlimited entries into Shenandoah National Park for a year from the date of purchase. You may purchase the annual Shenandoah pass online or at one of the entrance stations. At the entrance stations, you may pay for all passes with cash, credit/debit card, money order, or personal check.

You may also choose to purchase an annual pass that is good for all federal lands, including Shenandoah. America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Passes, as well as any of the other annual passes offered, may be purchased online, or at any staffed entrance station..

Shenandoah National Park is one of the few national parks that allow pets on trails, although there are a few trails where pets are prohibited. Pets must also be kept on a physical leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Please remember to always bag your pet's waste; be sure to have a bag or canister to put it in until you can find a trash can, and do not leave pet waste bags in trees, on trail posts, or discarded in the woods. 

There are two visitor centers in Shenandoah, as well as a mobile visitor center.

Most facilities and services in the park are accessible, or accessible with assistance. Limberlost Trail is the only hiking trail that is ADA accessible, with a crushed greenstone walkway on a gentle grade. 

Most other trails are not suitable for stroller use. "Jogging-style" strollers, with larger, rugged wheels, may be used on some fire roads throughout the park. A short bike path at Big Meadows (mile 51), is also navigable with a stroller.

 

Eating & Sleeping

There are several dining facilities in the park, from sit down restaurants to grab'n go food options. These are all run by Delaware North, our concessioner. Wayside is a local term that you may see used for rest-stops with facilities.

There are several different lodging facilities available in Shenandoah National Park, all run by Delaware North, our concessioner.

There are several picnic grounds in the park.

Car camping is not allowed along the road, in overlooks, or in picnic grounds. You may park overnight in Shenandoah while camping in the Park's backcountry, however. Your backcountry itinerary dictates where you will park. You may park at trailheads where parking is provided, and at entrance stations, if space permits. Visitor Centers, picnic areas, waysides, and overlooks also have parking space. Be sure you are not blocking Skyline Drive, administrative/fire roads, or overlooks.

 

Transportation

The maximum speed limit throughout the park is 35 miles per hour. Speed limits are reduced in developed areas such as campgrounds and picnic grounds. With over 75 scenic overlooks along the way, most people need at least 3-4 hours to simply drive through Shenandoah.

Gas is available at Big Meadows Wayside (mile 51), but it is always a good idea to enter the park with a full tank as the gas pumps can be unreliable, especially in the winter.

There are no authorized shuttle providers in Shenandoah National Park. You will need to make your own arrangements for transportation to, from, and within the park.

Cycling is permitted along Skyline Drive and on paved areas in the park. Rroad and mountain bikes are not permitted on trails, unpaved roads, or in grassy areas. Be very careful if you decide to bike on Skyline Drive. Drivers are often paying more attention to the scenery than to the roadway. Dense fog is possible any day of the year at any time of the day, and cyclists must have headlights and taillights during foggy conditions. Be prepared for steep uphill climbs and unforgiving road shoulders lined by rock walls.

Motor homes, RVs, camping trailers, and horse trailers are welcome in Shenandoah National Park, but be prepared to shift into low gear. Be sure you will clear Marys Rock Tunnel (mile 32.2), with a maximum clearance of 12'8". This is the measured clearance for both lanes of the road. You can visit Shenandoah without traveling through the tunnel by only visiting the northern or southern section of the park.

 

Outdoor Activities

Permits are not required for day hiking, however, they are required for backcountry camping. Backcountry campers should be self-reliant and review camping regulations before self-registering for their backcountry permits, which can be done online, or at a number of kiosks in the park. Kiosks are located at: entrance stations, Loft Mountain Wayside, North and South entry points of the Appalachian Trail, and the Old Rag Trailhead parking area.

Shenandoah offers over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Trails range from short, easy walks to long, rugged rock scrambles.

In-person ranger programs are typically offered in the spring, summer, and fall. Ranger-guided programs give visitors the opportunity to explore the wonders of Shenandoah with a Park Ranger. Discover stories of Shenandoah's past, take a walk through a unique mountain meadow, or learn about the animals and plants that thrive here. If you can't make it to an in-person program, we also have virtual programs available online!

There are a number of waterfalls in the park, although none are visible from Skyline Drive and you must hike in order to see them.

There are no swimming pools or lakes in Shenandoah National Park. Swimming is allowed in all park streams, but most of them are shallow and rocky. Remember that these mountaintop streams can be extremely cold, even during the summer. Hiking is required for most streams that are deep enough for wading or swimming. Never climb on, or around, waterfallsthe rocks are extremely slippery!

All park streams are open to catch-and-release fishing. Additionally, some designated streams are open to harvest. Special regulations are in place, and a Virginia state fishing license is required. Some hiking is required to reach fishing streams.

Shenandoah National Park has no navigable waters. Many people spend part of their trip outside of the park on the Shenandoah River to get their water fix. There are a number of private outfitters that rent equipment and operate guided trips outside of the park.

Delaware North, the park concessioner, typically offers guided trail rides from Skyland. If you'd like to bring your own horse, Shenandoah offers over 180 miles of horse trails. Special horse use regulations are in place for horse use your safety and to help protect park resources. 

Maybe. In order to be legal for use in Shenandoah, twig burning stoves must be self-contained and designed for backpacking use. This means that the stove must be small enough (usually ~6 cu. in. or less) to be packed and carried by an individual as part of a backpacking trip, and must burn short twigs no larger than the diameter of a common pencil. Twigs must be burned completely to ash, which must also be quenched with water to ensure fire is completely out before scattering ashes. Larger portable stoves and grills intended for group-use or heating purposes as well as cooking remain prohibited in the park’s backcountry.

 

Nature

Several hundred black bears live in Shenandoah National Park. When visiting the park you may spot a bear virtually anywhere: while hiking, camping, or simply walking between your car and a restaurant. The opportunity to see a bear in the wild is the highlight of many park trips. Although they are generally shy, it's important that you know what to do if you see a black bear.

Fall brings two things: gorgeous foliage and large crowds. As the weather begins to cool and the trees exchange their leaves of green for reds, oranges, and yellows, visitors come from all over to experience all that Shenandoah National Park has to offer. 

The color change does not happen all at once. Trees at the higher elevations change first, and this change moves slowly down the mountain. Shenandoah National Park is over 70 miles long, and due to the varying elevations of this mountainous park, it's impossible to pick an accurate peak date for the entire park. History has shown us, however, that, generally, fall colors seem to be at their most brilliant stage around the 2nd or 3rd week of October. This does vary. Over the last several years, we've noticed that many park trees are still showing off their fall foliage well into November.

The highest point on the Skyline Drive is 3,680 feet (mile 41.7 at the northern entrance to Skyland Resort). The highest point in the park, accessible by a moderate hike, is the summit of Hawksbill Mountain at 4,050 feet.

There are over 800 species of wildflowers in the park. This diversity is particularly evident in spring at the lower elevations along streams such as South River, Hughes River, Rose River, and Mill Prong. Later in the season, the banks of Skyline Drive and Big Meadows area are great places to see summer and fall wildflowers.

These colorful shrubs line the Skyline Drive and provide a beautiful display of color in early summer. Although it can vary from year to year and at different elevations, the dark pink azaleas generally bloom in late May to early June. The lighter pinkish-white blooms of the mountain laurels are generally the most profuse during the month of June. Experiencing Limberlost Trail when the laurels are blooming can be an unforgettable experience.

 

History & Culture

No one knows for sure. The park was named after the Shenandoah River, which flows through the Shenandoah Valley, located just west of the park. Many theories and versions exist as to what the word "Shenandoah" means, including: "daughter of the stars," "silver water," "river through the spruces," "river of high mountains," "great meadow." and "big flat place." It could also be named for the fallen chief Sherando or for a tribe called the Senedoes, who lived in the valley until 1730.

Although Shenandoah National Park was authorized by Congress on May 22, 1926, it wasn't established until December 26, 1935. The park was officially dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 3, 1936. Explore more about the history and culture of Shenandoah.

Rapidan Camp, formerly known as Camp Hoover, was the summer White House of President Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover. Since Hoover enjoyed fishing, it is situated where two streams join to form the Rapidan River. He also conducted official business from the retreat. While at the camp, the President and his wife stayed in The Brown House, which has been reconstructed to conform to the appearance it had during their time (1929-1932).

When leaving office, Hoover donated the property to the National Park Service for incorporation into the soon-to-be-established Shenandoah National Park. Today Rapidan Camp is a National Historic Landmark - and a site well worth the hike from Milam Gap.

In the 1930s, over 400 mountain resident families lived within the boundaries of what is now Shenandoah National Park. When the park was established, some families moved out on their own, while others moved into homes in resettlement communities set up by Rural Resettlement Administration. Several older individuals were allowed to live out their lives in their home within the park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program. From 1933-1942, thousands of young men lived and worked in CCC camps in, and adjacent to, the park. The "boys" built rock walls, trails, fire roads, log structures, scenic overlooks, and more. They planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs and are responsible for much of what visitors to Shenandoah see today.

Last updated: July 9, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835

Phone:

(540) 999-3500
Emergency Phone: 1-800-732-0911

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